OLD FORT - On paper it was the same two teams that met Jan. 3 at Calvert, but this time around, it didn't seem like the same Old Fort team.
Twenty-six days ago when Calvert hosted the Stockaders, Calvert posted the game's first 14 points, built a 29-point halftime lead and cruised to a 34-point victory.
Though the final result turned out to be similar as Calvert left town a 60-33 victory, Old Fort made sure it wouldn't be so easy this time around as the two Midland Athletic League schools met in a non-league contest.
"We've been working really hard, the girls have been improving," Old Fort coach Jennifer Miller said. "They're young and I think some of the nerves and the inexperience is gone now. They're a lot of games in, so they can come out and play that first quarter instead of feeling it out so much."
This time it was Old Fort taking the early lead off baskets from Michaela Davidson and Shelby Bilger, while the defense held Calvert off the board until the 4:47 mark of the first quarter when Kate Brickner banked in a 3-pointer. Two minutes later she knocked in another to finally put Calvert ahead.
Calvert (13-5) was playing for the second straight night after beating Monclova Christian by 50 on Monday. Coach Tim Ritzler said he was unsure how his team would respond to playing back-to-back games.
"It was the first time all year we played a back-to-back like that, so I was interested to see how we'd come out and respond. It was a little slow start, we had a couple turnovers early that we need to clean up. Credit to Old Fort, they were very aggressive from the beginning defensively and that caused some of our turnovers. They're a much improved team. But we just stuck with what we wanted to do and we made enough plays ... the girls made the plays when they needed to."
A lot of those plays came on the defensive end.
Calvert forced Old Fort (1-17) into 10 turnovers in the first quarter and 18 in the first half. A good number of those turned into Calvert baskets.
"That's one of the ways we've been able to score this year," Ritzler said. "We've been a team that's been able to force a lot of turnovers and get ourselves as many easy baskets as possible, and tonight was no different. We did a good job on the front end of our press creating turnovers. And then on a big floor like this I thought our girls did a really good job of getting out and running and getting as many easy baskets as possible."
For Calvert, it was a good thing the defense forced turnovers, because once Old Fort got into a half-court set, it did a good job converting. The Stockaders shot 40 percent on the night (14 for 35), a vast improvement over the 17 percent they shot the first time against Calvert.
"We've really been focusing on catching ready-to-shoot [passes]," Miller said. "Before, we really struggled to catch ready-to-shoot, so that's one thing we've been emphasizing. You got to be ready to shoot when you catch it so you can get that shot off. If you take you long to set your feet, the defense will be right up on you."
Those who had good nights on the offense included Sammy Miller, who led the Stockaders with nine points, and Sara Bell and Mackenzie Gillett, who each scored six.
Ritzler pointed out Old Fort's improvements on the defensive end. Where the Senecas had 43 points by halftime of the first meeting, they didn't hit that total till the fourth quarter Tuesday.
"I thought Old Fort did a great job in their zone of taking away everything inside," he said. "Every time we tried to go inside to our post players, they had three or four girls collapsing around. Our posts did a great job of continuing to work the ball back outside to our open shooters."
"We flip-flopped our zone around," Miller said. "We knew they had really good guards so we just tried to put the pressure on the guards a little more, keep the lane closed instead of open. Keep Brickner from being able to drive in there."
Brickner, though, was able to post a game-high 16 points, leading a balanced Seneca attack. Nicole Bickley added 11 and Megan Funkhouser chipped in nine. Eleven Senecas got in the scoring column. Ritzler said that's key to moving forward to build depth on his team.
"I think its very important," he said. "We feel like we got a pretty deep team. We got a lot of freshmen that dress, that are getting some time. We want to get them as much experience as possible, cause you never know when you're one injury or one person getting in foul trouble away from having to dig deep in the bench. We feel like if we have to do that, now we're completely capable of going to our bench without losing a whole lot."